Business leaders urge caution over university cuts

Image caption,
Links between business and universities generate £59bn annually

Business leaders have urged the government to be "cautious" over university funding cuts.

Senior executives of companies including Shell, Network Rail, Centrica and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals UK made the comments in a letter to the Daily Telegraph.

They said universities made a "vital contribution" to the long-term prosperity of the British economy.

The government plans to cut £650m from England's higher education budget.

The business leaders called on the government to ensure it supported innovation and highlighted the importance of "science, innovation and knowledge" to future economic growth.

Links between business and the university sector contribute around £31bn each year to the nation's economy directly and £59bn indirectly, according to the university sector.

The business leaders said the links could "spur the economy on further".

'Credible plan'

"Businesses look to the UK's excellent universities for graduate talent, research and innovation. Business helps fund higher education, which in turn makes the UK a good place to invest," they wrote.

"We need a credible plan for restoring fiscal balance but urge the government to be cautious over those elements of public spending that are vital to the future growth and prosperity of our economy - science, innovation and knowledge.

"This is the approach taken in America and by other international competitors. We cannot afford to be left behind in international league tables."

Meanwhile, the head of the British Academy has said university funding for humanities subjects must be sustained if the UK is to keep its place on the world stage.

Sir Adam Roberts said such disciplines contributed to the UK's health, wealth and international reputation, but the "enormous achievements" of these subjects were often overlooked in favour of science and maths-based subjects.

The comments came in a new booklet published by the British Academy called Past, Present and Future, looking at the contributions humanities and social sciences have made to national and international issues.

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